HUNTINGTON, Ind. - So close yet so far. After leading through the first 18 minutes of the final stanza, the HU women’s basketball team (14-10, 6-7) came up two points short, 56-54, against the nation’s top team in Indiana Wesleyan University Wednesday night at Platt Arena.
Amelia Recker’s bucket with just over two minutes remaining proved to be HU’s final field goal as the Wildcats’ defense, ranked No. 1 in NAIA Division II, came up with critical stops while making big plays on the other end of the court to squeak out their 24th win of the season.
With the shot clock about to expire, Taylor Goshert came up with the game’s biggest play when she buried her only trifecta of the night at the 1:46 mark to give IWU (24-1, 12-1) a 54-53 lead, their first lead since the opening five minutes of play.
Both teams logged a free throw to keep it a one-point contest at 55-54 with 55 ticks remaining. With an opportunity to reclaim the lead, HU came up empty on the ensuing possession forcing Culler’s crew to foul with :17 seconds remaining. IWU’s Claire Ray toed the line where she converted 1 of her 2 tosses to extend the lead to 56-54.
It was a heart-wrenching ending as the Foresters fired up three shots in the final ten seconds but couldn’t get any of them to drop as IWU held on for the win.
With lingering thoughts of the 38-point loss suffered earlier this season to the Wildcats, HU didn't let IWU's 6-0 start derail their confidence. Instead, four different Foresters scored to turn their deficit into a six-point advantage of 10-6 by the 13:24 mark. Huntington went on to build a seven-point lead on two separate occasions before heading into intermission on top 25-22.
Recker scored seven of her 13 points in the first half to pace the Foresters. As a team, HU shot 50.0 percent (10-for-20) for the half while limiting Wesleyan to 37.5 percent (9-for-24).
Speed opened up the second period with an old-fashioned three-point play and then capitalized on a Wesleyan turnover to push the lead to 30-22 within the first minute of play.
IWU stormed back to tie things up at 32-32 less than three minutes later but Sarah Miller-Jennings took matters into her own hands by draining back-to-back threes and then logging three more points, the old-fashioned way, to give HU the largest lead of the night at 41-32 with just over 14 minutes remaining.
HU warded off the Wildcats over the next 12 minutes until Coach Brooke’s squad eventually found a way to escape with the win.
Miller-Jennings topped all scorers with 19 points and five rebounds. Recker added 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Speed tossed in ten points and dished out a game-best five assists.
HU controlled the boards. They out-rebounded their visitors 35-27 with Taylor Foley leading the way with a game-high 12 rebounds.
IWU landed three in double figures with Goshert and Paige Smith each scoring 13 points and Katrina Blackmon adding ten.
The Foresters return to Platt Arena on Saturday to face Mount Vernon Nazarene University at 1:00 p.m. where they will look to avenge a 63-61 loss earlier this season.